FROM A BEAST TO THE BEST
The whole nation was numbed with shock when the news about the gang rape in the capital of India trickled down in the wee hours of 17th December, 2013. Through the length and breadth of our country, what followed was overwhelming concern for the rape victim, who was battling for her life even as righteous indignation against the perpetrators of this ghastly crime was welling up in the hearts of shocked citizens of the country. When the innocent rape victim breathed her last, after bravely battling for her life thirteen days, anguish of the nation knew no bounds. No wonder, there was universal relief that justice was done when the guilty ones were sentenced to death by the fast track court judge Yogesh Khanna, who termed the crime as hair-raising beastly.
It may shock many if I observe that all those (irrespective of their social standing) who are not part of God’s family in Christ (Col.1:13-14) appear as ‘beasts’ in His holy sight. Consider this Scripture which describes the hair-raising vision of the prophet Daniel involving beasts.
“In my vision that night I, Daniel, saw a great storm churning the surface of a great sea, with strong winds blowing from every direction. Then four huge beasts came up out of the water, each different from the others. The first beast was like a lion with eagles’ wings. As I watched, its wings were pulled off, and it was left standing with its two hind feet on the ground, like a human being. And it was given a human mind. Then I saw a second beast, and it looked like a bear. It was rearing up on one side, and it had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. And I heard a voice saying to it, ‘Get up! Devour the flesh of many people!’ Then the third of these strange beasts appeared, and it looked like a leopard. It had four birds’ wings on its back, and it had four heads. Great authority was given to this beast. Then in my vision that night, I saw a fourth beast—terrifying, dreadful, and very strong. It devoured and crushed its victims with huge iron teeth and trampled their remains beneath its feet. It was different from any of the other beasts, and it had ten horns. As I was looking at the horns, suddenly another small horn appeared among them” (Dan.7:2-8).
This vision was a re-affirmation of an earlier dream of King Nebuchadnezzar wherein he saw a huge human statue made of different metals (Dan.2:31-33).
Firstly, for the exposition of the afore-referred visions and dreams.
a) The first beast appearing as a lion, as also the golden head of the human statue, represents the Babylonian empire. It is symbolic of a fierce consuming power that it was. Its two wings stand for the speed with which the Babylonians became the world super power.
b) The second beast, the bear, (the Medo-Persian empire), symbolises ferocity, strength, stability and mindless cruelty. The silver torso of the human statue is its equivalent in King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.
c) The third beast, the leopard, (the Greek empire), symbolises the speed and viciousness with which they conquered the world. They were swifter than their Babylonian counterparts in becoming the world’s prima donna; hence four wings are seen in the leopard’s body as against two in that of the lion. The division of the Greek empire amongst four generals of Alexander the Great consequent to his death is symbolised by the four heads. In the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar, the Greek empire is represented by the bronze abdomen and the thigh.
d) The fourth beast (the Roman empire) with 10 horns symbolises the ten kings (kingdoms) into which Rome was divided on its incorporation with the Germanic and Slavonic tribes (JFB Commentary). Its equivalent in King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was the iron leg.
e) The little horn that appeared on the 10-horned beast as also the feet of iron and clay in King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream represent the imminent Anti-Christ’s empire, which shall be set up soon after the rapture of the church.
Why did the world emperors of Daniel’s time appear as beasts to the prophet, but only as different parts of a human being to King Nebuchadnezzar? While King Nebuchadnezzar, an ordinary man with no special gifts, saw them merely as different parts of a human body, the prophet, being a ‘spiritual’ man endowed with divine insight (1Cor.2:14-15), could see them ‘differently’ for what they actually were. Yes, strange as it may seem for many an uninitiated soul, an unregenerate King/Queen or a President, with all the regal splendour and high-nosed stance which goes with offices of authority, would in his/her inherent selfish state appear as a beast to a Holy God. No wonder, Jesus speaking to a religious leader of high social standing, namely Nicodemus, said unequivocally, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the kingdom of God.” In the Scripture, don’t we see outwardly ‘righteous’ men and women commanding respect of the society seeking the Saviour, confessing their sins and getting baptised in His name? I do not have to go beyond the transformation, and subsequent baptism, of the temple-visiting, Bible-reading Ethiopian official of great authority (Acts.8:26-39), charitable Roman Centurion Cornelius (Acts.10), devout purple cloth merchant Lydia (Acts.16:13-15) and the sympathetic, empathetic (to Paul and Silas) Philippian jailer (Acts.16:16-35) to underscore my point.
I reiterate, even at the cost of sounding repetitive, that the Good News with capital G for all the unregenerate souls is that they can receive the Saviour into their hearts by making this simple prayer, “Father in heaven, I confess that I am a sinner who has no intrinsic holiness or righteousness of my own. I believe that Your holy Son Jesus died on the cross as atonement for my sins. I accept Jesus as my personal Saviour this very moment. Please forgive all my sins on the basis of the redemptive work of your Son on the cross and grant me a new life. In Jesus’ holy and precious name I pray. Amen.”
Jesus launched His ministry with this clarion call beside the Sea of Galilee two thousand years ago, “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mk.1:14 NIV). What is the meaning of kingdom of God here? Is Jesus referring to heaven to which all righteous souls would go to after death or is He referring to the millennial kingdom, which He would establish soon after His second coming (Rev.20)? Neither of them was near two thousand years ago to His audience. To understand the meaning of kingdom of God, let Scripture interpret Scripture. Romans 14:17 (NIV) reads thus, “Kingdom of God is…righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Once an unregenerate soul repents, he or she gets into a right standing (best definition for righteousness) with God.
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1Pet.2:9).
Talking of beasts and the animal world, the conversion of a soul is akin to a raven becoming a dove. Once a ‘beast’ becomes a Christian, he or she becomes the best in the sight of God. The above Scripture portion refers to the high calling of a Christian, who amongst other things is also now branded biblically as a temple of God (1Cor.3:16).
To please the Almighty, is anything more important than Christ-like holiness? This holiness which is now imputed to a Christian as a free gift (Eph.2:8) on this side of eternity would become intrinsic on the other side of eternity as the Scripture guarantees.
“Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but He has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He really is” (Jn.3:2).
In India the highest civilian award, Bharat Ratna, is awarded by the highest authority in the land, the President, to the truly deserving ones. But the incredible truth is that the Sovereign God gives us, undeserving humans (Rom.3:23), His holiness free of cost by continuously placing His Spirit within us so that we lead a holy life (Zech.4:6). Doesn’t He deserve our life-long undivided loyalty and devotion, besides a loud hallelujah?
“When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day” (Lk.17:26). During Noah’s time “earth had become corrupt and was filled with violence” (Gen.6:11).
I never tire of repeating the words of my Lord, “Let those with ears hear” (Mk.4:9) and understand the implications behind the world-wide events which are ‘trumpeting’ the inescapable truth about Christ’s imminent return. Even after the gruesome gang rape incident in New Delhi and public condemnation of the same, have gang rapes ceased, or for that matter, has violence in our shrinking globe shrunk? What do the Telangana strife, the escalating violence in Syria and Egypt, to name a few turbulent events, prove? As Bible-believing Christians, we should steel ourselves for the situation to worsen before it becomes better.
“May His will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” The best in God’s scheme of things, as the wine in the wedding at Cana, is always reserved for the last (Jn.2:10). Come, Lord Jesus, to reign in our hearts and also in the world!